Part 1 out of 7
This etext was produced by John Stuart Middleton
by Rafael Sabatini
Lord Henry Goade, who had, as we shall see, some personal acquaintance
with Sir Oliver Tressilian, tells us quite bluntly that he was
ill-favoured. But then his lordship is addicted to harsh judgments
and his perceptions are not always normal. He says, for instance, of
Anne of Cleves, that she was the "ugliest woman that ever I saw." As
far as we can glean from his own voluminous writings it would seem to
be extremely doubtful whether he ever saw Anne of Cleves at all, and we
suspect him here of being no more than a slavish echo of the common
voice, which attributed Cromwell's downfall to the ugliness of this
bride he procured for his Bluebeard master. To the common voice from
the brush of Holbein, which permits us to form our own opinions and
shows us a lady who is certainly very far from deserving his lordship's
harsh stricture. Similarly, I like to believe that Lord Henry was
wrong in his pronouncement upon Sir Oliver, and I am encouraged in this
belief by the pen-portrait which he himself appends to it. "He was,"
he says, "a tall, powerful fellow of a good shape, if we except that
his arms were too long and that his feet and hands were of an uncomely
bigness. In face he was swarthy, with black hair and a black forked
beard; his nose was big and very high in the bridge, and his eyes sunk
deep under beetling eyebrows were very pale-coloured and very cruel and
sinister. He had--and this I have ever remarked to be the sign of
great virility in a man--a big, deep, rough voice, better suited to,
and no doubt oftener employed in, quarter-deck oaths and foulnesses
than the worship of his Maker."
Thus my Lord Henry Goade, and you observe how he permits his lingering
disapproval of the man to intrude upon his description of him. The
truth is that--as there is ample testimony in his prolific writings--
is lordship was something of a misanthropist. It was, in fact, his
misanthropy which drove him, as it has driven many another, to
authorship. He takes up the pen, not so much that he may carry out his
professed object of writing a chronicle of his own time, but to the end
that he may vent the bitterness engendered in him by his fall from
favour. As a consequence he has little that is good to say of anyone,
and rarely mentions one of his contemporaries but to tap the sources of
a picturesque invective. After all, it is possible to make excuses for
him. He was at once a man of thought and a man of action--a
combination as rare as it is usually deplorable. The man of action in
him might have gone far had he not been ruined at the outset by the man
of thought. A magnificent seaman, he might have become Lord High
Admiral of England but for a certain proneness to intrigue.
Fortunately for him--since otherwise he could hardly have kept his
head where nature had placed it--he came betimes under a cloud of
suspicion. His career suffered a check; but it was necessary to afford
him some compensation since, after all, the suspicions could not be
Consequently he was removed from his command and appointed by the
Queen's Grace her Lieutenant of Cornwall, a position in which it was
judged that he could do little mischief. There, soured by this
blighting of his ambitions, and living a life of comparative seclusion,
he turned, as so many other men similarly placed have turned, to seek
consolation in his pen. He wrote his singularly crabbed, narrow and
superficial History of Lord Henry Goade: his own Times--which is a
miracle of injuvenations, distortions, misrepresentations, and
eccentric spelling. In the eighteen enormous folio volumes, which he
filled with his minute and gothic characters, he gives his own version
of the story of what he terms his downfall, and, having,
notwithstanding his prolixity, exhausted this subject in the first five
of the eighteen tomes, he proceeds to deal with so much of the history
of his own day as came immediately under his notice in his Cornish
For the purposes of English history his chronicles are entirely
negligible, which is the reason why they have been allowed to remain
unpublished and in oblivion. But to the student who attempts to follow
the history of that extraordinary man, Sir Oliver Tressilian, they are
entirely invaluable. And, since I have made this history my present
task, it is fitting that I should here at the outset acknowledge my
extreme indebtedness to those chronicles. Without them, indeed, it
were impossible to reconstruct the life of that Cornish gentleman who
became a renegade and a Barbary Corsair and might have become Basha of
Algiers--or Argire, as his lordship terms it--but for certain matters
which are to be set forth.
Lord Henry wrote with knowledge and authority, and the tale he has to
tell is very complete and full of precious detail. He was, himself, an
eyewitness of much that happened; he pursued a personal acquaintance
with many of those who were connected with Sir Oliver's affairs that he
might amplify his chronicles, and he considered no scrap of gossip that
was to be gleaned along the countryside too trivial to be recorded. I
suspect him also of having received no little assistance from Jasper
Leigh in the matter of those events that happened out of England, which
seem to me to constitute by far the most interesting portion of his
SIR OLIVER TRESSILIAN
I. THE HUCKSTER
III. THE FORGE
IV. THE INTERVENER
V. THE BUCKLER
VI. JASPER LEIGH
VIII. THE SPANIARD
I. THE CAPTIVE
II. THE RENEGADE
III. HOMEWARD BOUND
IV. THE RAID
V. THE LION OF THE FAITH
VI. THE CONVERT
VIII. MOTHER AND SON
X. THE SLAVE-MARKET
XI. THE TRUTH
XII. THE SUBTLETY OF FENZILEH
XIII. IN THE SIGHT OF ALLAH
XIV. THE SIGN
XV. THE VOYAGE
XVI. THE PANNIER
XVII. THE DUPE
XVIII. SHEIK MAT
XIX. THE MUTINEERS
XX. THE MESSENGER
XXII. THE SURRENDER
XXIII. THE HEATHEN CREED
XXIV. THE JUDGES
XXV. THE ADVOCATE
XXVI. THE JUDGMENT
SIR OLIVER TRESSILIAN
Sir Oliver Tressilian sat at his ease in the lofty dining-room of the
handsome house of Penarrow, which he owed to the enterprise of his
father of lamented and lamentable memory and to the skill and invention
of an Italian engineer named Bagnolo who had come to England half a
century ago as one of the assistants of the famous Torrigiani.
This house of such a startlingly singular and Italianate grace for so
remote a corner of Cornwall deserves, together with the story of its
construction, a word in passing.
The Italian Bagnolo who combined with his salient artistic talents a
quarrelsome, volcanic humour had the mischance to kill a man in a brawl
in a Southwark tavern. As a result he fled the town, nor paused in his
headlong flight from the consequences of that murderous deed until he
had all but reached the very ends of England. Under what circumstances
he became acquainted with Tressilian the elder I do not know. But
certain it is that the meeting was a very timely one for both of them.
To the fugitive, Ralph Tressilian--who appears to have been
inveterately partial to the company of rascals of all denominations--
afforded shelter; and Bagnolo repaid the service by offering to rebuild
the decaying half-timbered house of Penarrow. Having taken the task in
hand he went about it with all the enthusiasm of your true artist, and
achieved for his protector a residence that was a marvel of grace in
that crude age and outlandish district. There arose under the
supervision of the gifted engineer, worthy associate of Messer
Torrigiani, a noble two-storied mansion of mellow red brick, flooded
with light and sunshine by the enormously tall mullioned windows that
rose almost from base to summit of each pilastered facade. The main
doorway was set in a projecting wing and was overhung by a massive
balcony, the whole surmounted by a pillared pediment of extraordinary
grace, now partly clad in a green mantle of creepers. Above the burnt
red tiles of the roof soared massive twisted chimneys in lofty majesty.
But the glory of Penarrow--that is, of the new Penarrow begotten of the
fertile brain of Bagnolo--was the garden fashioned out of the tangled
wilderness about the old house that had crowned the heights above
Penarrow point. To the labours of Bagnolo, Time and Nature had added
their own. Bagnolo had cut those handsome esplanades, had built those
noble balustrades bordering the three terraces with their fine
connecting flights of steps; himself he had planned the fountain, and
with his own hands had carved the granite faun presiding over it and
the dozen other statues of nymphs and sylvan gods in a marble that
gleamed in white brilliance amid the dusky green. But Time and Nature
had smoothed the lawns to a velvet surface, had thickened the handsome
boxwood hedges, and thrust up those black spear-like poplars that
completed the very Italianate appearance of that Cornish demesne.
Sir Oliver took his ease in his dining-room considering all this as it
was displayed before him in the mellowing September sunshine, and found
it all very good to see, and life very good to live. Now no man has
ever been known so to find life without some immediate cause, other
than that of his environment, for his optimism. Sir Oliver had several
causes. The first of these--although it was one which he may have been
far from suspecting--was his equipment of youth, wealth, and good
digestion; the second was that he had achieved honour and renown both
upon the Spanish Main and in the late harrying of the Invincible
Armada--or, more aptly perhaps might it be said, in the harrying of the
late Invincible Armada--and that he had received in that the twenty-
fifth year of his life the honour of knighthood from the Virgin Queen;
the third and last contributor to his pleasant mood--and I have
reserved it for the end as I account this to be the proper place for
the most important factor--was Dan Cupid who for once seemed compounded
entirely of benignity and who had so contrived matters that Sir
Oliver's wooing Of Mistress Rosamund Godolphin ran an entirely smooth
and happy course.
So, then, Sir Oliver sat at his ease in his tall, carved chair, his
doublet untrussed, his long legs stretched before him, a pensive smile
about the firm lips that as yet were darkened by no more than a small
black line of moustachios. (Lord Henry's portrait of him was drawn at
a much later period.) It was noon, and our gentleman had just dined,
as the platters, the broken meats and the half-empty flagon on the
board beside him testified. He pulled thoughtfully at a long pipe--for
he had acquired this newly imported habit of tobacco-drinking--and
dreamed of his mistress, and was properly and gallantly grateful that
fortune had used him so handsomely as to enable him to toss a title and
some measure of renown into his Rosamund's lap.
By nature Sir Oliver was a shrewd fellow ("cunning as twenty devils,"
is my Lord Henry's phrase) and he was also a man of some not
inconsiderable learning. Yet neither his natural wit nor his acquired
endowments appear to have taught him that of all the gods that rule the
destinies of mankind there is none more ironic and malicious than that
same Dan Cupid in whose honour, as it were, he was now burning the
incense of that pipe of his. The ancients knew that innocent-seeming
boy for a cruel, impish knave, and they mistrusted him. Sir Oliver
either did not know or did not heed that sound piece of ancient wisdom.
It was to be borne in upon him by grim experience, and even as his
light pensive eyes smiled upon the sunshine that flooded the terrace
beyond the long mullioned window, a shadow fell athwart it which he
little dreamed to be symbolic of the shadow that was even falling
across the sunshine of his life.
After that shadow came the substance--tall and gay of raiment under a
broad black Spanish hat decked with blood-red plumes. Swinging a long
beribboned cane the figure passed the windows, stalking deliberately as
The smile perished on Sir Oliver's lips. His swarthy face grew
thoughtful, his black brows contracted until no more than a single deep
furrow stood between them. Then slowly the smile came forth again, but
no longer that erstwhile gentle pensive smile. It was transformed into
a smile of resolve and determination, a smile that tightened his lips
even as his brows relaxed, and invested his brooding eyes with a gleam
that was mocking, crafty and almost wicked.
Came Nicholas his servant to announce Master Peter Godolphin, and close
upon the lackey's heels came Master Godolphin himself, leaning upon his
beribboned cane and carrying his broad Spanish hat. He was a tall,
slender gentleman, with a shaven, handsome countenance, stamped with an
air of haughtiness; like Sir Oliver, he had a high-bridged, intrepid
nose, and in age he was the younger by some two or three years. He
wore his auburn hair rather longer than was the mode just then, but in
his apparel there was no more foppishness than is tolerable in a
gentleman of his years.
Sir Oliver rose and bowed from his great height in welcome. But a wave
of tobacco-smoke took his graceful visitor in the throat and set him
coughing and grimacing.
"I see," he choked, "that ye have acquired that filthy habit."
"I have known filthier," said Sir Oliver composedly.
"I nothing doubt it," rejoined Master Godolphin, thus early giving
indications of his humour and the object of his visit.
Sir Oliver checked an answer that must have helped his visitor to his
ends, which was no part of the knight's intent.
"Therefore," said he ironically, "I hope you will be patient with my
shortcomings. Nick, a chair for Master Godolphin and another cup. I
bid you welcome to Penarrow."
A sneer flickered over the younger man's white face. "You pay me a
compliment, sir, which I fear me 'tis not mine to return to you."
"Time enough for that when I come to seek it," said Sir Oliver, with
easy, if assumed, good humour.
"When you come to seek it?"
"The hospitality of your house," Sir Oliver explained.
"It is on that very matter I am come to talk with you."
"Will you sit?" Sir Oliver invited him, and spread a hand towards the
chair which Nicholas had set. In the same gesture he waved the servant
Master Godolphin ignored the invitation. "You were," he said, "at
Godolphin Court but yesterday, I hear." He paused, and as Sir Oliver
offered no denial, he added stiffly: "I am come, sir, to inform you
that the honour of your visits is one we shall be happy to forgo."
In the effort he made to preserve his self-control before so direct an
affront Sir Oliver paled a little under his tan.
"You will understand, Peter," he replied slowly, "that you have said
too much unless you add something more." He paused, considering his
visitor a moment. "I do not know whether Rosamund has told you that
yesterday she did me the honour to consent to become my wife...."
"She is a child that does not know her mind," broke in the other.
"Do you know of any good reason why she should come to change it?"
asked Sir Oliver, with a slight air of challenge.
Master Godolphin sat down, crossed his legs and placed his hat on his
"I know a dozen," he answered. "But I need not urge them. Sufficient
should it be to remind you that Rosamund is but seventeen and that she
is under my guardianship and that of Sir John Killigrew. Neither Sir
John nor I can sanction this betrothal."
"Good lack!" broke out Sir Oliver. "Who asks your sanction or Sir
John's? By God's grace your sister will grow to be a woman soon and
mistress of herself. I am in no desperate haste to get me wed, and by
nature--as you may be observing--I am a wondrous patient man. I'll
even wait," And he pulled at his pipe.
"Waiting cannot avail you in this, Sir Oliver. 'Tis best you should
understand. We are resolved, Sir John and I."
"Are you so? God's light. Send Sir John to me to tell me of his
resolves and I'll tell him something of mine. Tell him from me, Master
Godolphin, that if he will trouble to come as far as Penarrow I'll do
by him what the hangman should have done long since. I'll crop his
pimpish ears for him, by this hand!"
"Meanwhile," said Master Godolphin whettingly, "will you not essay your
rover's prowess upon me?"
"You?" quoth Sir Oliver, and looked him over with good-humoured
contempt. "I'm no butcher of fledgelings, my lad. Besides, you are
your sister's brother, and 'tis no aim of mine to increase the
obstacles already in my path." Then his tone changed. He leaned
across the table. "Come, now, Peter. What is at the root of all this
matter? Can we not compose such differences as you conceive exist?
Out with them. 'Tis no matter for Sir John. He's a curmudgeon who
signifies not a finger's snap. But you, 'tis different. You are her
brother. Out with your plaints, then. Let us be frank and friendly."
"Friendly?" The other sneered again. "Our fathers set us an example
"Does it matter what our fathers did? More shame to them if, being
neighbours, they could not be friends. Shall we follow so deplorable
"You'll not impute that the fault lay with my father," cried the other,
with a show of ready anger.
"I impute nothing, lad. I cry shame upon them both."
"'Swounds!" swore Master Peter. "Do you malign the dead?"
"If I do, I malign them both. But I do not. I no more than condemn a
fault that both must acknowledge could they return to life."
"Then, Sir, confine your condemnings to your own father with whom no
man of honour could have lived at peace...."
"Softly, softly, good Sir...."
"There's no call to go softly. Ralph Tressilian was a dishonour, a
scandal to the countryside. Not a hamlet between here and Truro, or
between here and Helston, but swarms with big Tressilian noses like
your own, in memory of your debauched parent."
Sir Oliver's eyes grew narrower: he smiled. "I wonder how you came by
your own nose?" he wondered.
Master Godolphin got to his feet in a passion, and his chair crashed
over behind him. "Sir," he blazed, "you insult my mother's memory!"
Sir Oliver laughed. "I make a little free with it, perhaps, in return
for your pleasantries on the score of my father."
Master Godolphin pondered him in speechless anger, then swayed by his
passion he leaned across the board, raised his long cane and struck Sir
Oliver sharply on the shoulder.
That done, he strode off magnificently towards the door. Half-way
thither he paused.
"I shall expect your friends and the length of your sword," said he.
Sir Oliver laughed again. "I don't think I shall trouble to send
them," said he.
Master Godolphin wheeled, fully to face him again. "How? You will
take a blow?"
Sir Oliver shrugged. "None saw it given," said he.
"But I shall publish it abroad that I have caned you."
"You'll publish yourself a liar if you do; for none will believe you."
Then he changed his tone yet again. "Come, Peter, we are behaving
unworthily. As for the blow, I confess that I deserved it. A man's
mother is more sacred than his father. So we may cry quits on that
score. Can we not cry quits on all else? What can it profit us to
perpetuate a foolish quarrel that sprang up between our fathers?"
"There is more than that between us," answered Master Godolphin. "I'll
not have my sister wed a pirate."
"A pirate? God's light! I am glad there's none to hear you for since
her grace has knighted me for my doings upon the seas, your words go
very near to treason. Surely, lad, what the Queen approves, Master
Peter Godolphin may approve and even your mentor Sir John Killigrew.
You've been listening to him. 'Twas he sent you hither."
"I am no man's lackey," answered the other hotly, resenting the
imputation--and resenting it the more because of the truth in it.
"To call me a pirate is to say a foolish thing. Hawkins with whom I
sailed has also received the accolade, and who dubs us pirates insults
the Queen herself. Apart from that, which, as you see, is a very empty
charge, what else have you against me? I am, I hope, as good as any
other here in Cornwall; Rosamund honours me with her affection and I am
rich and shall be richer still ere the wedding bells are heard."
"Rich with the fruit of thieving upon the seas, rich with the treasures
of scuttled ships and the price of slaves captured in Africa and sold
to the plantations, rich as the vampire is glutted--with the blood of
"Does Sir John say that?" asked Sir Oliver, in a soft deadly voice.
"I say it."
"I heard you; but I am asking where you learnt that pretty lesson. Is
Sir John your preceptor? He is, he is. No need to tell me. I'll deal
with him. Meanwhile let me disclose to you the pure and disinterested
source of Sir John's rancour. You shall see what an upright and honest
gentleman is Sir John, who was your father's friend and has been your
"I'll not listen to what you say of him."
"Nay, but you shall, in return for having made me listen to what he
says of me. Sir John desires to obtain a licence to build at the mouth
of the Fal. He hopes to see a town spring up above the haven there
under the shadow of his own Manor of Arwenack. He represents himself
as nobly disinterested and all concerned for the prosperity of the
country, and he neglects to mention that the land is his own and that
it is his own prosperity and that of his family which he is concerned
to foster. We met in London by a fortunate chance whilst Sir John was
about this business at the Court. Now it happens that I, too, have
interests in Truro and Penryn; but, unlike Sir John, I am honest in the
matter, and proclaim it. If any growth should take place about
Smithick it follows from its more advantageous situation that Truro and
Penryn must suffer, and that suits me as little as the other matter
would suit Sir John. I told him so, for I can be blunt, and I told the
Queen in the form of a counter-petition to Sir John's." He shrugged.
"The moment was propitious to me. I was one of the seamen who had
helped to conquer the unconquerable Armada of King Philip. I was
therefore not to be denied, and Sir John was sent home as empty-handed
as he went to Court. D'ye marvel that he hates me? Knowing him for
what he is, d'ye marvel that he dubs me pirate and worse? 'Tis natural
enough so to misrepresent my doings upon the sea, since it is those
doings have afforded me the power to hurt his profit. He has chosen
the weapons of calumny for this combat, but those weapons are not mine,
as I shall show him this very day. If you do not credit what I say,
come with me and be present at the little talk I hope to have with that
"You forget," said Master Godolphin, "that I, too, have interests in
the neighbourhood of Smithick, and that you are hurting those."
"Soho!" crowed Sir Oliver. "Now at last the sun of truth peeps forth
from all this cloud of righteous indignation at my bad Tressilian blood
and pirate's ways! You, too, are but a trafficker. Now see what a
fool I am to have believed you sincere, and to have stood here in talk
with you as with an honest man." His voice swelled and his lip curled
in a contempt that struck the other like a blow. "I swear I had not
wasted breath with you had I known you for so mean and pitiful a
"These words...." began Master Godolphin, drawing himself up very
"Are a deal less than your deserts," cut in the other, and he raised
his voice to call--"Nick."
"You shall answer to them," snapped his visitor.
"I am answering now," was the stern answer. "To come here and prate to
me of my dead father's dissoluteness and of an ancient quarrel between
him and yours, to bleat of my trumped-up course of piracy and my own
ways of life as a just cause why I may not wed your sister whilst the
real consideration in your mind, the real spur to your hostility is not
more than the matter of some few paltry pounds a year that I hinder you
from pocketing. A God's name get you gone."
Nick entered at that moment.
"You shall hear from me again, Sir Oliver," said the other, white with
anger. "You shall account to me for these words."
"I do not fight with...with hucksters," flashed Sir Oliver.
"D'ye dare call me that?"
"Indeed, 'tis to discredit an honourable class, I confess it. Nick,
the door for Master Godolphin."
Anon, after his visitor had departed, Sir Oliver grew calm again. Then
being able in his calm to consider his position, he became angry anew
at the very thought of the rage in which he had been, a rage which had
so mastered him that he had erected additional obstacles to the already
considerable ones that stood between Rosamund and himself. In full
blast, his anger swung round and took Sir John Killigrew for its
objective. He would settle with him at once. He would so, by Heaven's
He bellowed for Nick and his boots.
"Where is Master Lionel? he asked when the boots had been fetched.
"He be just ridden in, Sir Oliver."
"Bid him hither."
Promptly, in answer to that summons, came Sir Oliver's half-brother--a
slender lad favouring his mother the dissolute Ralph Tressilian's
second wife. He was as unlike Sir Oliver in body as in soul. He was
comely in a very gentle, almost womanish way; his complexion was fair
and delicate, his hair golden, and his eyes of a deep blue. He had a
very charming stripling grace--for he was but in his twenty-first year--
and he dressed with all the care of a Court-gallant.
"Has that whelp Godolphin been to visit you?" he asked as he entered.
"Aye," growled Sir Oliver. "He came to tell me some things and to hear
some others in return."
"Ha. I passed him just beyond the gates, and he was deaf to my
greeting. 'Tis a most cursed insufferable pup."
"Art a judge of men, Lal." Sir Oliver stood up booted. "I am for
Arwenack to exchange a compliment or two with Sir John."
His tight-pressed lips and resolute air supplemented his words so well
that Lionel clutched his arm.
"You're not...you're not ...?"
"I am." And affectionately, as if to soothe the lad's obvious alarm,
he patted his brother's shoulder. "Sir John," he explained, "talks too
much. 'Tis a fault that wants correcting. I go to teach him the
virtue of silence."
"There will be trouble, Oliver."
"So there will--for him. If a man must be saying of me that I am a
pirate, a slave-dealer, a murderer, and Heaven knows what else, he must
be ready for the consequences. But you are late, Lal. Where have you
"I rode as far as Malpas."
"As far as Malpas?" Sir Oliver's eyes narrowed, as was the trick with
him. "I hear it whispered what magnet draws you thither," he said.
"Be wary, boy. You go too much to Malpas."
"How?" quoth Lionel a trifle coldly.
"I mean that you are your father's son. Remember it, and strive not to
follow in his ways lest they bring you to his own end. I have just
been reminded of these predilections of his by good Master Peter. Go
not over often to Malpas, I say. No more." But the arm which he flung
about his younger brother's shoulders and the warmth of his embrace
made resentment of his warning quite impossible.
When he was gone, Lionel sat him down to dine, with Nick to wait on
him. He ate but little, and never addressed the old servant in the
course of that brief repast. He was very pensive. In thought he
followed his brother on that avenging visit of his to Arwenack.
Killigrew was no babe, but man of his hands, a soldier and a seaman.
If any harm should come to Oliver...He trembled at the thought; and
then almost despite him his mind ran on to calculate the consequences
to himself. His fortune would be in a very different case, he
refected. In a sort of horror, he sought to put so detestable a
reflection from his mind; but it returned insistently. It would not be
denied. It forced him to a consideration of his own circumstances.
All that he had he owed to his brother's bounty. That dissolute
father of theirs had died as such men commonly die, leaving behind him
heavily encumbered estates and many debts; the very house of Penarrow
was mortgaged, and the moneys raised on it had been drunk, or gambled,
or spent on one or another of Ralph Tressilian's many lights o' love.
Then Oliver had sold some little property near Helston, inherited from
his mother; he had sunk the money into a venture upon the Spanish Main.
He had fitted out and manned a ship, and had sailed with Hawkins upon
one of those ventures, which Sir John Killigrew was perfectly entitled
to account pirate raids. He had returned with enough plunder in specie
and gems to disencumber the Tressilian patrimony. He had sailed again
and returned still wealthier. And meanwhile, Lionel had remained at
home taking his ease. He loved his ease. His nature was inherently
indolent, and he had the wasteful extravagant tastes that usually go
with indolence. He was not born to toil and struggle, and none had
sought to correct the shortcomings of his character in that respect.
Sometimes he wondered what the future might hold for him should Oliver
come to marry. He feared his life might not be as easy as it was at
present. But he did not seriously fear. It was not in his nature--it
never is in the natures of such men--to give any excess of
consideration to the future. When his thoughts did turn to it in
momentary uneasiness, he would abruptly dismiss them with the
reflection that when all was said Oliver loved him, and Oliver would
never fail to provide adequately for all his wants.
In this undoubtedly he was fully justified. Oliver was more parent
than brother to him. When their father had been brought home to die
from the wound dealt him by an outraged husband--and a shocking
spectacle that sinner's death had been with its hasty terrified
repentance--he had entrusted Lionel to his elder brother's care. At
the time Oliver was seventeen and Lionel twelve. But Oliver had seemed
by so many years older than his age, that the twice-widowed Ralph
Tressilian had come to depend upon this steady, resolute, and masterful
child of his first marriage. It was into his ear that the dying man
had poured the wretched tale of his repentance for the life he had
lived and the state in which he was leaving his affairs with such scant
provision for his sons. For Oliver he had no fear. It was as if with
the prescience that comes to men in his pass he had perceived that
Oliver was of those who must prevail, a man born to make the world his
oyster. His anxieties were all for Lionel, whom he also judged with
that same penetrating insight vouchsafed a man in his last hours.
Hence his piteous recommendation of him to Oliver, and Oliver's ready
promise to be father, mother, and brother to the youngster.
All this was in Lionel's mind as he sat musing there, and again he
struggled with that hideous insistent thought that if things should go
ill with his brother at Arwenack, there would be great profit to
himself; that these things he now enjoyed upon another's bounty he
would then enjoy in his own right. A devil seemed to mock him with the
whispered sneer that were Oliver to die his own grief would not be
long-lived. Then in revolt against that voice of an egoism so
loathsome that in his better moments it inspired even himself with
horror, he bethought him of Oliver's unvarying, unwavering affection;
he pondered all the loving care and kindness that through these years
past Oliver had ever showered upon him; and he cursed the rottenness of
a mind that could even admit such thoughts as those which he had been
entertaining. So wrought upon was he by the welter of his emotions, by
that fierce strife between his conscience and his egotism, that he came
abruptly to his feet, a cry upon his lips.
"Vade retro, Sathanas!"
Old Nicholas, looking up abruptly, saw the lad's face, waxen, his brow
bedewed with sweat.
"Master Lionel! Master Lionel!" he cried, his small bright eyes
concernedly scanning his young master's face. "What be amiss?"
Lionel mopped his brow. "Sir Oliver has gone to Arwenack upon a
punitive business," said he.
"An' what be that, zur?" quoth Nicholas.
"He has gone to punish Sir John for having maligned him."
A grin spread upon the weather-beaten countenance of Nicholas.
"Be that so? Marry, 'twere time. Sir John he be over long i' th'
Lionel stood amazed at the man's easy confidence and supreme assurance
of how his master must acquit himself.
"You...you have no fear, Nicholas...." He did not add of what. But the
servant understood, and his grin grew broader still.
"Fear? Lackaday! I bain't afeeard for Sir Oliver, and doan't ee be
afeeard. Sir Oliver'll be home to sup with a sharp-set appetite--'tis
the only difference fighting ever made to he."
The servant was justified of his confidence by the events, though
through a slight error of judgment Sir Oliver did not quite accomplish
all that promised and intended. In anger, and when he deemed that he
had been affronted, he was--as his chronicler never wearies of
insisting, and as you shall judge before the end of this tale is
reached--of a tigerish ruthlessness. He rode to Arwenack fully
resolved to kill his calumniator. Nothing less would satisfy him.
Arrived at that fine embattled castle of the Killigrews which commanded
the entrance to the estuary of the Fal, and from whose crenels the
country might be surveyed as far as the Lizard, fifteen miles away, he
found Peter Godolphin there before him; and because of Peter's presence
Sir Oliver was more deliberate and formal in his accusation of Sir John
than he had intended. He desired, in accusing Sir John, also to clear
himself in the eyes of Rosamund's brother, to make the latter realize
how entirely odious were the calumnies which Sir John had permitted
himself, and how basely prompted.
Sir John, however, came halfway to meet the quarrel. His rancour
against the Pirate of Penarrow--as he had come to dub Sir Oliver--
endered him almost as eager to engage as was his visitor.
They found a secluded corner of the deer-park for their business, and
there Sir John--a slim, sallow gentleman of some thirty years of age--
made an onslaught with sword and dagger upon Sir Oliver, full worthy of
the onslaught he had made earlier with his tongue. But his impetuosity
availed him less than nothing. Sir Oliver was come there with a
certain purpose, and it was his way that he never failed to carry
through a thing to which he set his hand.
In three minutes it was all over and Sir Oliver was carefully wiping
his blade, whilst Sir John lay coughing upon the turf tended by
white-faced Peter Godolphin and a scared groom who had been bidden
thither to make up the necessary tale of witnesses.
Sir Oliver sheathed his weapons and resumed his coat, then came to
stand over his fallen foe, considering him critically.
"I think I have silenced him for a little time only," he said. "And I
confess that I intended to do better. I hope, however, that the lesson
will suffice and that he will lie no more--at least concerning me."
"Do you mock a fallen man?" was Master Godolphin's angry protest.
"God forbid!" said Sir Oliver soberly. "There is no mockery in my
heart. There is, believe me, nothing but regret--regret that I should
not have done the thing more thoroughly. I will send assistance from
the house as I go. Give you good day, Master Peter."
From Arwenack he rode round by Penryn on his homeward way. But he did
not go straight home. He paused at the Gates of Godolphin Court, which
stood above Trefusis Point commanding the view of Carrick Roads. He
turned in under the old gateway and drew up in the courtyard. Leaping
to the kidney-stones that paved it, he announced himself a visitor to
He found her in her bower--a light, turreted chamber on the mansion's
eastern side, with windows that looked out upon that lovely sheet of
water and the wooded slopes beyond. She was sitting with a book in her
lap in the deep of that tall window when he entered, preceded and
announced by Sally Pentreath, who, now her tire-woman, had once been
She rose with a little exclamation of gladness when he appeared under
the lintel--scarce high enough to admit him without stooping--and stood
regarding him across the room with brightened eyes and flushing cheeks.
What need is there to describe her? In the blaze of notoriety into
which she was anon to be thrust by Sir Oliver Tressilian there was
scarce a poet in England who did not sing the grace and loveliness of
Rosamund Godolphin, and in all conscience enough of those fragments
have survived. Like her brother she was tawny headed and she was
divinely tall, though as yet her figure in its girlishness was almost
too slender for her height.
"I had not looked for you so early...." she was beginning, when she
observed that his countenance was oddly stern. "Why...what has
happened?" she cried, her intuitions clamouring loudly of some
"Naught to alarm you, sweet; yet something that may vex you." He set
an arm about that lissom waist of hers above the swelling farthingale,
and gently led her back to her chair, then flung himself upon the
window-seat beside her. "You hold Sir John Killigrew in some
affection?" he said between statement and inquiry.
"Why, yes. He was our guardian until my brother came of full age."
Sir Oliver made a wry face. "Aye, there's the rub. Well, I've all but
She drew back into her chair, recoiling before him, and he saw horror
leap to her eyes and blench her face. He made haste to explain the
causes that had led to this, he told her briefly of the calumnies
concerning him that Sir John had put about to vent his spite at having
been thwarted in a matter of his coveted licence to build at Smithick.
"That mattered little," he concluded. "I knew these tales concerning
me were abroad, and I held them in the same contempt as I hold their
utterer. But he went further, Rose: he poisoned your brother's mind
against me, and he stirred up in him the slumbering rancour that in my
father's time was want to lie between our houses. To-day Peter came to
me with the clear intent to make a quarrel. He affronted me as no man
has ever dared."
She cried out at that, her already great alarm redoubled. He smiled.
Do not suppose that I could harm him. He is your brother, and, so,
sacred to me. He came to tell me that no betrothal was possible
between us, forbade me ever again to visit Godolphin Court, dubbed me
pirate and vampire to my face and reviled my father's memory. I
tracked the evil of all this to its source in Killigrew, and rode
straight to Arwenack to dam that source of falsehood for all time. I
did not accomplish quite so much as I intended. You see, I am frank,
my Rose. It may be that Sir John will live; if so I hope that he may
profit by this lesson. I have come straight to you," he concluded,
"that you may hear the tale from me before another comes to malign me
with false stories of this happening."
"You...you mean Peter?" she cried.
"Alas!" he sighed.
She sat very still and white, looking straight before her and not at
all at Sir Oliver. At length she spoke.
"I am not skilled in reading men," she said in a sad, small voice.
"How should I be, that am but a maid who has led a cloistered life. I
was told of you that you were violent and passionate, a man of bitter
enmities, easily stirred to hatreds, cruel and ruthless in the
persecution of them."
"You, too, have been listening to Sir John," he muttered, and laughed
"All this was I told," she pursued as if he had not spoken, "and all
did I refuse to believe because my heart was given to you. Yet...yet
of what have you made proof to-day?"
"Of forbearance," said he shortly.
"Forbearance?" she echoed, and her lips writhed in a smile of weary
irony. "Surely you mock me!"
He set himself to explain.
"I have told you what Sir John had done. I have told you that the
greater part of it--and matter all that touched my honour--I know Sir
John to have done long since. Yet I suffered it in silence and
contempt. Was that to show myself easily stirred to ruthlessness?
What was it but forbearance? When, however, he carries his petty
huckster's rancour so far as to seek to choke for me my source of
happiness in life and sends your brother to affront me, I am still so
forbearing that I recognize your brother to be no more than a tool and
go straight to the hand that wielded him. Because I know of your
affection for Sir John I gave him such latitude as no man of honour in
England would have given him."
Then seeing that she still avoided his regard, still sat in that frozen
attitude of horror at learning that the man she loved had imbrued his
hands with the blood of another whom she also loved, his pleading
quickened to a warmer note. He flung himself upon his knees beside her
chair, and took in his great sinewy hands the slender fingers which she
listlessly surrendered. "Rose," he cried, and his deep voice quivered
with intercession, "dismiss all that you have heard from out your mind.
Consider only this thing that has befallen. Suppose that Lionel my
brother came to you, and that, having some measure of power and
authority to support him, he swore to you that you should never wed me,
swore to prevent this marriage because he deemed you such a woman as
could not bear my name with honour to myself; and suppose that to all
this he added insult to the memory of your dead father, what answer
would you return him? Speak, Rose! Be honest with thyself and me.
Deem yourself in my place, and say in honesty if you can still condemn
me for what I have done. Say if it differs much from what you would
wish to do in such a case as I have named."
Her eyes scanned now his upturned face, every line of which was
pleading to her and calling for impartial judgment. Her face grew
troubled, and then almost fierce. She set her hands upon his
shoulders, and looked deep into his eyes.
"You swear to me, Noll, that all is as you have told it me--you have
added naught, you have altered naught to make the tale more favourable
"You need such oaths from me?" he asked, and she saw sorrow spread upon
"If I did I should not love thee, Noll. But in such an hour I need
your own assurance. Will you not be generous and bear with me,
strengthen me to withstand anything that may be said hereafter?"
"As God's my witness, I have told you true in all," he answered
She sank her head to his shoulder. She was weeping softly, overwrought
by this climax to all that in silence and in secret she had suffered
since he had come a-wooing her.
"Tnen," she said, "I believe you acted rightly. I believe with you
that no man of honour could have acted otherwise. I must believe you,
Noll, for did I not, then I could believe in naught and hope for
naught. You are as a fire that has seized upon the better part of me
and consumed it all to ashes that you may hold it in your heart. I am
content so you be true."
"True I shall ever be, sweetheart," he whispered fervently. "Could I
be less since you are sent to make me so?"
She looked at him again, and now she was smiling wistfully through her
"And you will bear with Peter?" she implored him.
"He shall have no power to anger me," he answered. "I swear that too.
Do you know that but to-day he struck me?"
"Struck you? You did not tell me that!"
"My quarrel was not with him but with the rogue that sent him. I
laughed at the blow. Was he not sacred to me?"
"He is good at heart, Noll," she pursued. "In time he will come to
love you as you deserve, and you will come to know that he, too,
deserves your love."
"He deserves it now for the love he bears to you."
"And you will think ever thus during the little while of waiting that
perforce must lie before us?"
"I shall never think otherwise, sweet. Meanwhile I shall avoid him,
and that no harm may come should he forbid me Godolphin Court I'll even
stay away. In less than a year you will be of full age, and none may
hinder you to come and go. What is a year, with such hope as mine to
She stroked his face. "Art very gentle with me ever, Noll," she
murmured fondly. "I cannot credit you are ever harsh to any, as they
"Heed them not," he answered her. "I may have been something of all
that, but you have purified me, Rose. What man that loved you could be
aught but gentle." He kissed her, and stood up. "I had best be going
now," he said. "I shall walk along the shore towards Trefusis Point
to-morrow morning. If you should chance to be similarly disposed...."
She laughed, and rose in her turn. "I shall be there, dear Noll."
"'Twere best so hereafter," he assured her, smiling, and so took his
She followed him to the stair-head, and watched him as he descended
with eyes that took pride in the fine upright carriage of that
stalwart, masterful lover.
Sir Oliver's wisdom in being the first to bear Rosamund the story of
that day's happenings was established anon when Master Godolphin
returned home. He went straight in quest of his sister; and in a frame
of mind oppressed by fear and sorrow, for Sir John, by his general
sense of discomfiture at the hands of Sir Oliver and by the anger
begotten of all this he was harsh in manner and disposed to hector.
"Madam," he announced abruptly, "Sir John is like to die."
The astounding answer she returned him--that is, astounding to him--did
not tend to soothe his sorely ruffled spirit.
"I know," she said. "And I believe him to deserve no less. Who deals
in calumny should be prepared for the wages of it."
He stared at her in a long, furious silence, then exploded into oaths,
and finally inveighed against her unnaturalness and pronounced her
bewitched by that foul dog Tressilian.
"It is fortunate for me," she answered him composedly, "that he was
here before you to give me the truth of this affair." Then her assumed
calm and the anger with which she had met his own all fell away from
her. "Oh, Peter, Peter," she cried in anguish, "I hope that Sir John
will recover. I am distraught by this event. But be just, I implore
you. Sir Oliver has told me how hard-driven he had been."
"He shall be driven harder yet, as God's my life! If you think this
deed shall go unpunished...."
She flung herself upon his breast and implored him to carry this
quarrel no further. She spoke of her love for Sir Oliver and announced
her firm resolve to marry him in despite of all opposition that could
be made, all of which did not tend to soften her brother's humour. Yet
because of the love that ever had held these two in closest bonds he
went so far in the end as to say that should Sir John recover he would
not himself pursue the matter further. But if Sir John should die--as
was very likely--honour compelled him to seek vengeance of a deed to
which he had himself so very largely contributed.
"I read that man as if he were an open book," the boy announced, with
callow boastfulness. "He has the subtlety of Satan, yet he does not
delude me. It was at me he struck through Killigrew. Because he
desires you, Rosamund, he could not--as he bluntly told me--deal with
me however I provoked him, not even though I went the length of
striking him. He might have killed me for't; but he knew that to do so
would place a barrier 'twixt him and you. Oh! he is calculating as all
the fiends of Hell. So, to wipe out the dishonour which I did him, he
shifts the blame of it upon Killigrew and goes out to kill him, which
he further thinks may act as a warning to me. But if Killigrew
dies...." And thus he rambled on, filling her gentle heart with anguish
to see this feud increasing between the two men she loved best in all
the world. If the outcome of it should be that either were to kill the
other, she knew that she could never again look upon the survivor.
She took heart at last in the memory of Sir Oliver's sworn promise that
her brother's life should be inviolate to him, betide what might. She
trusted him; she depended upon his word and that rare strength of his
which rendered possible to him a course that no weaker man would dare
pursue. And in this reflection her pride in him increased, and she
thanked God for a lover who in all things was a giant among men.
But Sir John Killigrew did not die. He hovered between this world and
a better one for some seven days, at the end of which he began to
recover. By October he was abroad again, gaunt and pale, reduced to
half the bulk that had been his before, a mere shadow of a man.
One of his first visits was to Godolphin Court. He went to remonstrate
with Rosamund upon her betrothal, and he did so at the request of her
brother. But his remonstrances were strangely lacking in the force
that she had looked for.
The odd fact is that in his near approach to death, and with his
earthly interest dwindling, Sir John had looked matters frankly in the
face, and had been driven to the conclusion--a conclusion impossible to
him in normal health--that he had got no more than he deserved. He
realized that he had acted unworthily, if unconscious at the time of
the unworthiness of what he did; that the weapons with which he had
fought Sir Oliver were not the weapons that become a Gentleman or in
which there is credit to be won. He perceived that he had permitted
his old enmity for the house of Tressilian, swollen by a sense of
injury lately suffered in the matter of the licence to build at
Smithick, to warp his judgment and to persuade him that Sir Oliver was
all he had dubbed him. He realized that jealousy, too, had taken a
hand in the matter. Sir Oliver's exploits upon the seas had brought
him wealth, and with this wealth he was building up once more the
Tressilian sway in those parts, which Ralph Tressilian had so
outrageously diminished, so that he threatened to eclipse the
importance of the Killigrews of Arwenack.
Nevertheless, in the hour of reaction he did not go so far as to admit
that Sir Oliver Tressilian was a fit mate for Rosamund Godolphin. She
and her brother had been placed in his care by their late father, and
he had nobly discharged his tutelage until such time as Peter had come
to full age. His affection for Rosamund was tender as that of a lover,
but tempered by a feeling entirely paternal. He went very near to
worshipping her, and when all was said, when he had cleared his mind of
all dishonest bias, he still found overmuch to dislike in Oliver
Tressilian, and the notion of his becoming Rosamund's husband was
First of all there was that bad Tressilian blood--notoriously bad, and
never more flagrantly displayed than in the case of the late Ralph
Tressilian. It wasimpossible that Oliver should have escaped the taint
of it; nor could Sir John perceive any signs that he had done so. He
displayed the traditional Tressilian turbulence. He was passionate and
brutal, and the pirate's trade to which he had now set his hand was of
all trades the one for which he was by nature best equipped. He was
harsh and overbearing, impatient of correction and prone to trample
other men's feelings underfoot. Was this, he asked himself in all
honesty, a mate for Rosamund? Could he entrust her happiness to the
care of such a man? Assuredly he could not.
Therefore, being whole again, he went to remonstrate with her as he
accounted it his duty and as Master Peter had besought him. Yet knowing
the bias that had been his he was careful to understate rather than to
overstate his reasons.
"But, Sir John," she protested, "if every man is to be condemned for the
sins of his forbears, but few could escape condemnation, and wherever
shall you find me a husband deserving your approval?"
"His father...." began Sir John.
"Tell me not of his father, but of himself" she interrupted.
He frowned impatiently--they were sitting in that bower of hers above
"I was coming to 't," he answered, a thought testily, for these
interruptions which made him keep to the point robbed him of his best
arguments. "However, suffice it that many of his father's vicious
qualities he has inherited, as we see in his ways of life; that he has
not inherited others only the future can assure us."
"In other words," she mocked him, yet very seriously, "I am to wait
until he dies of old age to make quite sure that he has no such sins as
must render him an unfitting husband?"
"No, no," he cried. "Good lack! what a perverseness is thine!"
"The perverseness is your own, Sir John. I am but the mirror of it."
He shifted in his chair and grunted. "Be it so, then," he snapped. "We
will deal with the qualities that already he displays." And Sir John
"But this is no more than your judgment of him--no more than what you
"'Tis what all the world thinks him."
"But I shall not marry a man for what others think of him, but for what
I think of him myself. And in my view you cruelly malign him. I
discover no such qualities in Sir Oliver."
"'Tis that you should be spared such a discovery that I am beseeching
you not to wed him."
"Yet unless I wed him I shall never make such a discovery; and until I
make it I shall ever continue to love him and to desire to wed him. Is
all my life to be spent so?" She laughed outright, and came to stand
beside him. She put an arm about his neck as she might have put it
about the neck of her father, as she had been in the habit of doing any
day in these past ten years--and thereby made him feel himself to have
reached an unconscionable age. With her hand she rubbed his brow.
"Why, here are wicked wrinkles of ill-humour," she cried to him. "You
are all undone, and by a woman's wit, and you do not like it."
"I am undone by a woman's wilfulness, by a woman's headstrong resolve
not to see."
"You have naught to show me, Sir John."
"Naught? Is all that I have said naught?"
"Words are not things; judgments are not facts. You say that he is so,
and so and so. But when I ask you upon what facts you judge him, your
only answer is that you think him to be what you say he is. Your
thoughts may be honest, Sir John, but your logic is contemptible." And
she laughed again at his gaping discomfiture. "Come, now, deal like an
honest upright judge, and tell me one act of his--one thing that he has
ever done and of which you have sure knowledge--that will bear him out
to be what you say he is. Now, Sir John!"
He looked up at her impatiently. Then, at last he smiled.
"Rogue!" he cried--and upon a distant day he was to bethink him of those
words. "If ever he be brought to judgment I can desire him no better
advocate than thou."
Thereupon following up her advantage swiftly, she kissed him. "Nor
could I desire him a more honest judge than you."
What was the poor man to do thereafter? What he did. Live up to her
pronouncement, and go forthwith to visit Sir Oliver and compose their
The acknowledgment of his fault was handsomely made, and Sir Oliver
received it in a spirit no less handsome. But when Sir John came to the
matter of Mistress Rosamund he was, out of his sense of duty to her,
less generous. He announced that since he could not bring himself to
look upon Sir Oliver as a suitable husband for her, nothing that he had
now said must mislead Sir Oliver into supposing him a consenting party
to any such union.
"But that," he added, "is not to say that I oppose it. I disapprove,
but I stand aside. Until she is of full age her brother will refuse his
sanction. After that, the matter will concern neither him nor myself."
"I hope," said Sir Oliver, "he will take as wise a view. But whatever
view he takes will be no matter. For the rest, Sir John, I thank you
for your frankness, and I rejoice to know that if I may not count you
for my friend, at least I need not reckon you among my enemies."
But if Sir John was thus won round to a neutral attitude, Master Peter's
rancour abated nothing; rather it increased each day, and presently
there came another matter to feed it, a matter of which Sir Oliver had
He knew that his brother Lionel rode almost daily to Malpas, and he knew
the object of those daily rides. He knew of the lady who kept a sort of
court there for the rustic bucks of Truro, Penryn, and Helston, and he
knew something of the ill-repute that had attached to her in town--a
repute, in fact, which had been the cause of her withdrawal into the
country. He told his brother some frank and ugly truths, concerning
her, by way of warning him, and therein, for the first time, the twain
went very near to quarrelling.
After that he mentioned her no more. He knew that in his indolent way
Lionel could be headstrong, and he knew human nature well enough to be
convinced that interference here would but set up a breach between
himself and his brother without in the least achieving its real object.
So Oliver shrugged re-signedly, and held his peace.
There he left the affair, nor ever spoke again of Malpas and the siren
who presided there. And meanwhile the autumn faded into winter, and
with the coming of stormy weather Sir Oliver and Rosamund had fewer
opportunities of meeting. To Godolphin Court he would not go since she
did not desire it; and himself he deemed it best to remain away since
otherwise he must risk a quarrel with its master, who had forbidden him
the place. In those days he saw Peter Godolphin but little, and on the
rare occasions when they did meet they passed each other with a very
Sir Oliver was entirely happy, and men noticed how gentler were his
accents, how sunnier had become a countenance that they had known for
haughty and forbidding. He waited for his coming happiness with the
confidence of an immortal in the future. Patience was all the service
Fate asked of him, and he gave that service blithely, depending upon the
reward that soon now would be his own. Indeed, the year drew near its
close; and ere another winter should come round Penarrow House would own
a mistress. That to him seemed as inevitable as the season itself. And
yet for all his supreme confidence, for all his patience and the
happiness he culled from it, there were moments when he seemed oppressed
by some elusive sense of overhanging doom, by some subconsciousness of
an evil in the womb of Destiny. Did he challenge his oppression, did he
seek to translate it into terms of reason, he found nothing upon which
his wits could fasten--and he came ever to conclude that it was his very
happiness by its excessiveness that was oppressing him, giving him at
times that sense of premonitory weight about the heart as if to check
its joyous soarings.
One day, a week from Christmas, he had occasion to ride to Helston on
some trifling affair. For half a week a blizzard had whirled about the
coast, and he had been kept chafing indoors what time layer upon layer
of snow was spread upon the countryside. On the fourth day, the storm
being spent, the sun came forth, the skies were swept clear of clouds
and all the countryside lay robed in a sun-drenched, dazzling whiteness.
Sir Oliver called for his horse and rode forth alone through the crisp
snow. He turned homeward very early in the afternoon, but when a couple
of miles from Helston he found that his horse had cast a shoe. He
dismounted, and bridle over arm tramped on through the sunlit vale
between the heights of Pendennis and Arwenack, singing as he went. He
came thus to Smithick and the door of the forge. About it stood a group
of fishermen and rustics, for, in the absence of any inn just there,
this forge was ever a point of congregation. In addition to the rustics
and an itinerant merchant with his pack-horses, there were present Sir
Andrew Flack, the parson from Penryn, and Master Gregory Baine, one of
the Justices from the neighbourhood of Truro. Both were well known to
Sir Oliver, and he stood in friendly gossip with them what time he
waited for his horse.
It was all very unfortunate, from the casting of that shoe to the
meeting with those gentlemen; for as Sir Oliver stood there, down the
gentle slope from Arwenack rode Master Peter Godolphin.
It was said afterwards by Sir Andrew and Master Baine that Master Peter
appeared to have been carousing, so flushed was his face, so unnatural
the brightness of his eye, so thick his speech and so extravagant and
foolish what he said. There can be little doubt that it was so. He was
addicted to Canary, and so indeed was Sir John Killigrew, and he had
been dining with Sir John. He was of those who turn quarrelsome in
wine--which is but another way of saying that when the wine was in and
the restraint out, his natural humour came uppermost untrammelled. The
sight of Sir Oliver standing there gave the lad precisely what he needed
to indulge that evil humour of his, and he may have been quickened in
his purpose by the presence of those other gentlemen. In his
half-fuddled state of mind he may have recalled that once he had struck
Sir Oliver and Sir Oliver had laughed and told him that none would
He drew rein suddenly as he came abreast of the group, so suddenly that
he pulled his horse until it almost sat down like a cat; yet he retained
his saddle. Then he came through the snow that was all squelched and
mudded just about the forge, and leered at Sir Oliver.
"I am from Arwenack," he announced unnecessarily. "We have been talking
"You could have had no better subject of discourse," said Sir Oliver,
smiling, for all that his eyes were hard and something scared--though
his fears did not concern himself.
"Marry, you are right; you make an engrossing topic--you and your
"Sir," replied Sir Oliver, "once already have I deplored your mother's
utter want of discretion."
The words were out of him in a flash under the spur of the gross insult
flung at him, uttered in the momentary blind rage aroused by that
inflamed and taunting face above him. No sooner were they sped than he
repented them, the more bitterly because they were greeted by a guffaw
from the rustics. He would have given half his fortune in that moment
to have recalled them.
Master Godolphin's face had changed as utterly as if he had removed a
mask. From flushed that it had been it was livid now and the eyes were
blazing, the mouth twitching. Thus a moment he glowered upon his enemy.
Then standing in his stirrups he swung aloft his whip.
"You dog!" he cried, in a snarling sob. "You dog!" And his lash came
down and cut a long red wheal across Sir Oliver's dark face.
With cries of dismay and anger the others, the parson, the Justice and
the rustics got between the pair, for Sir Oliver was looking very
wicked, and all the world knew him for a man to be feared.
"Master Godolphin, I cry shame upon you," ex-claimed the parson. "If
evil comes of this I shall testify to the grossness of your aggression.
Get you gone from here!"
"Go to the devil, sir," said Master Godolphin thickly. "Is my mother's
name to be upon the lips of that bastard? By God, man, the matter rests
not here. He shall send his friends to me, or I will horse-whip him
every time we meet. You hear, Sir Oliver?"
Sir Oliver made him no reply.
"You hear?" he roared. "There is no Sir John Killigrew this time upon
whom you can shift the quarrel. Come you to me and get the punishment
of which that whiplash is but an earnest." Then with a thick laugh he
drove spurs into his horse's flanks, so furiously that he all but sent
the parson and another sprawling.
"Stay but a little while for me," roared Sir Oliver after him. "You'll
ride no more, my drunken fool!"
And in a rage he bellowed for his horse, flinging off the parson and
Master Baine, who endeavoured to detain and calm him. He vaulted to the
saddle when the nag was brought him, and whirled away in furious
The parson looked at the Justice and the Justice shrugged, his lips
"The young fool is drunk," said Sir Andrew, shaking his white head.
"He's in no case to meet his Maker."
"Yet he seems very eager," quoth Master Justice Baine. "I doubt I shall
hear more of the matter." He turned and looked into the forge where the
bellows now stood idle, the smith himself grimy and aproned in leather
in the doorway, listening to the rustics account of the happening.
Master Baine it seems had a taste for analogies. "Faith," he said, "the
place was excellently well chosen. They have forged here to-day a sword
which it will need blood to temper."
The parson had notions of riding after Sir Oliver, and begged Master
Baine to join him. But the Justice looked down his long nose and opined
that no good purpose was to be served; that Tressilians were ever wild
and bloody men; and that an angry Tressilian was a thing to be avoided.
Sir Andrew, who was far from valorous, thought there might be wisdom in
the Justice's words, and remembered that he had troubles enough of his
own with a froward wife without taking up the burdens of others. Master
Godolphin and Sir Oliver between them, quoth the justice, had got up
this storm of theirs. A God's name let them settle it, and if in the
settling they should cut each other's throats haply the countryside
would be well rid of a brace of turbulent fellows. The pedlar deemed
them a couple of madmen, whose ways were beyond the understanding of a
sober citizen. The others--the fishermen and the rustics--had not the
means to follow even had they had the will.
They dispersed to put abroad the news of that short furious quarrel and
to prophesy that blood would be let in the adjusting of it. This
prognostication the they based entirely upon their knowledge of the
short Tressilian way. But it was a matter in which they were entirely
wrong. It is true that Sir Oliver went galloping along that road that
follows the Penryn river and that he pounded over the bridge in the
town of Penryn in Master Godolphin's wake with murder in his heart. Men
who saw him riding wildly thus with the red wheal across his white
furious face said that he looked a very devil.
He crossed the bridge at Penryn a half-hour after sunset, as dusk was
closing into night, and it may be that the sharp, frosty air had a hand
in the cooling of his blood. For as he reached the river's eastern bank
he slackened his breakneck pace, even as he slackened the angry
galloping of his thoughts. The memory of that oath he had sworn three
months ago to Rosamund smote him like a physical blow. It checked his
purpose, and, reflecting this, his pace fell to an amble. He shivered
to think how near he had gone to wrecking all the happiness that lay
ahead of him. What was a boy's whiplash, that his resentment of it;
should set all his future life in jeopardy? Even though men should call
him a coward for submitting to it and leaving the insult unavenged, what
should that matter? Moreover, upon the body of him who did so proclaim
him he could brand the lie of a charge so foolish. Sir Oliver raised
his eyes to the deep sapphire dome of heaven where an odd star was
glittering frostily, and thanked God from a swelling heart that he had
not overtaken Peter Godolphin whilst his madness was upon him.
A mile or so below Penryn, he turned up the road that ran down to the
ferry there, and took his way home over the shoulder of the hill with a
slack rein. It was not his usual way. He was wont ever to go round by
Trefusis Point that he might take a glimpse at the walls of the house
that harboured Rosamund and a glance at the window of her bower. But
to-night he thought the shorter road over the hill would be the safer
way. If he went by Godolphin Court he might chance to meet Peter again,
and his past anger warned him against courting such a meeting, warned
him to avoid it lest evil should betide. Indeed, so imperious was the
warning, and such were his fears of himself after what had just passed,
that he resolved to leave Penarrow on the next day. Whither he would go
he did not then determine. He might repair to London, and he might even
go upon another cruise--an idea which he had lately dismissed under
Rosamund's earnest intercession. But it was imperative that he should
quit the neighbourhood, and place a distance between Peter Godolphin and
himself until such time as he might take Rosamund to wife. Eight months
or so of exile; but what matter? Better so than that he should be
driven into some deed that would compel him to spend his whole lifetime
apart from her. He would write, and she would understand and approve
when he told her what had passed that day.
The resolve was firmly implanted in him by the time he reached Penarrow,
and he felt himself uplifted by it and by the promise it afforded him
that thus his future happiness would be assured.
Himself he stabled his horse; for of the two grooms he kept, one had by
his leave set out yesterday to spend Christmas in Devon with his
parents, the other had taken a chill and had been ordered to bed that
very day by Sir Oliver, who was considerate with those that served him.
In the dining-room he found supper spread, and a great log fire blazed
in the enormous cowled fire-place, diffusing a pleasant warmth through
the vast room and flickering ruddily upon the trophies of weapons that
adorned the walls, upon the tapestries and the portraits of dead
Tressilians. Hearing his step, old Nicholas entered bearing a great
candle-branch which he set upon the table.
"You'm late, Sir Oliver," said the servant, and Master Lionel bain't
home yet neither."
Sir Oliver grunted and scowled as he crunched a log and set it sizzling
under his wet heel. He thought of Malpas and cursed Lionel's folly, as,
without a word, he loosed his cloak and flung it on an oaken coffer by
the wall where already he had cast his hat. Then he sat down, and
Nicholas came forward to draw off his boots.
When that was done and the old servant stood up again, Sir Oliver
shortly bade him to serve supper.
"Master Lionel cannot be long now," said he. "And give me to drink,
Nick. 'Tis what I most require."
"I've brewed ee a posset o' canary sack," announced Nicholas; "there'm
no better supping o' a frosty winter's night, Sir Oliver."
He departed to return presently with a black jack that was steaming
fragrantly. He found his master still in the same attitude, staring at
the fire, and frowning darkly. Sir Oliver's thoughts were still of his
brother and Malpas, and so insistent were they that his own concerns
were for the moment quite neglected; he was considering whether it was
not his duty, after all, to attempt a word of remonstrance. At length
he rose with a sigh and got to table. There he bethought him of his
sick groom, and asked Nicholas for news of him. Nicholas reported the
fellow to be much as he had been, whereupon Sir Oliver took up a cup and
brimmed it with the steaming posset.
"Take him that," he said. "There's no better medicine for such an
Outside fell a clatter of hooves.
"Here be Master Lionel at last," said the servant.
"No doubt," agreed Sir Oliver. "No need to stay for him. Here is all
he needs. Carry that to Tom ere it cools."
It was his object to procure the servant's absence when Lionel should
arrive, resolved as he was to greet him with a sound rating for his
folly. Reflection had brought him the assurance that this was become
his duty in view of his projected absence from Penarrow; and in his
brother's interest he was determined not to spare him.
He took a deep draught of the posset, and as he set it down he heard
Lionel's step without. Then the door was flung open, and his brother
stood on the threshold a moment at gaze.
Sir Oliver looked round with a scowl, the well-considered reproof
already on his lips.
"So...." he began, and got no further. The sight that met his eyes drove
the ready words from his lips and mind; instead it was with a sharp gasp
of dismay that he came immediately to his feet. "Lionel!"
Lionel lurched in, closed the door, and shot home one of its bolts.
Then he leaned against it, facing his brother again. He was deathly
pale, with great dark stains under his eyes; his ungloved right hand was
pressed to his side, and the fingers of it were all smeared with blood
that was still oozing and dripping from between them. Over his yellow
doublet on the right side there was a spreading dark stain whose nature
did not intrigue Sir Oliver a moment.
"My God!" he cried, and ran to his brother. "What's happened, Lal? Who
has done this?"
"Peter Godolphin," came the answer from lips that writhed in a curious
Never a word said Sir Oliver, but he set his teeth and clenched his
hands until the nails cut into his palms. Then he put an arm about this
lad he loved above all save one in the whole world, and with anguish in
his mind he supported him forward to the fire. There Lionel dropped to
the chair that Sir Oliver had lately occupied.
"What is your hurt, lad? Has it gone deep?" he asked, in terror almost.
"'Tis naught--a flesh wound; but I have lost a mort of blood. I thought
I should have been drained or ever I got me home."
With fearful speed Sir Oliver drew his dagger and ripped away doublet,
vest, and shirt, laying bare the lad's white flesh. A moment's
examination, and he breathed more freely.
"Art a very babe, Lal," he cried in his relief. To ride without thought
to stanch so simple a wound, and so lose all this blood--bad Tressilian
blood though it be." He laughed in the immensity of his reaction from
that momentary terror. "Stay thou there whilst I call Nick to help us
dress this scratch."
"No, no!" There was note of sudden fear in the lad's voice, and his
hand clutched at his brother's sleeve. "Nick must not know. None must
know, or I am undone else."
Sir Oliver stared, bewildered. Lionel smiled again that curious
twisted, rather frightened smile.
"I gave better than I took, Noll," said he. "Master Godolphin is as
cold by now as the snow on which I left him."
His brother's sudden start and the fixed stare from out of his slowly
paling face scared Lionel a little. He observed, almost subconsciously,
the dull red wheal that came into prominence as the colour faded out of
Sir Oliver's face, yet never thought to ask how it came there. His own
affairs possessed him too completely.
"What's this?" quoth Oliver at last, hoarsely.
Lionel dropped his eyes, unable longer to meet a glance that was
"He would have it," he growled almost sullenly, answering the reproach
that was written in every line of his brother's taut body. "I had
warned him not to cross my path. But to-night I think some madness had
seized upon him. He affronted me, Noll; he said things which it was
beyond human power to endure, and...." He shrugged to complete his
"Well, well," said Oliver in a small voice. "First let us tend this
wound of yours."
"Do not call Nick," was the other's swift admonition. "Don't you see,
Noll?" he explained in answer to the inquiry of his brother's stare,
"don't you see that we fought there almost in the dark and without
witnesses. It...." he swallowed, "it will be called murder, fair fight
though it was; and should it be discovered that it was I...." He
shivered and his glance grew wild; his lips twitched.
"I see," said Oliver, who understood at last, and he added bitterly:
"I had no choice," protested Lionel. "He came at me with his drawn
sword. Indeed, I think he was half-drunk. I warned him of what must
happen to the other did either of us fall, but he bade me not concern
myself with the fear of any such consequences to himself. He was full
of foul words of me and you and all whoever bore our name. He struck me
with the flat of his blade and threatened to run me through as I stood
unless I drew to defend myself. What choice had I? I did not mean to
kill him--as God's my witness, I did not, Noll."
Without a word Oliver turned to a side-table, where stood a metal basin
and ewer. He poured water, then came in the same silence to treat his
brother's wound. The tale that Lionel told made blame impossible, at
least from Oliver. He had but to recall the mood in which he himself
had ridden after Peter Godolphin; he had but to remember, that only the
consideration of Rosamund--only, indeed, the consideration of his
future--had set a curb upon his own bloodthirsty humour.
When he had washed the wound he fetched some table linen from a press
and ripped it into strips with his dagger; he threaded out one of these
and made a preliminary crisscross of the threads across the lips of the
wound--for the blade had gone right through the muscles of the breast,
grazing the ribs; these threads would help the formation of a clot.
Then with the infinite skill and cunning acquired in the course of his
rovings he proceeded to the bandaging.
That done, he opened the window and flung out the blood-tinted water.
The cloths with which he had mopped the wound and all other similar
evidences of the treatment he cast upon the fire. He must remove all
traces even from the eyes of Nicholas. He had the most implicit trust
in the old servant's fidelity. But the matter was too grave to permit
of the slightest risk. He realized fully the justice of Lionel's fears
that however fair the fight might have been, a thing done thus in secret
must be accounted murder by the law.
Bidding Lionel wrap himself in his cloak, Sir Oliver unbarred the door,
and went upstairs in quest of a fresh shirt and doublet for his brother.
On the landing he met Nicholas descending. He held him a moment in talk
of the sick man above, and outwardly at least he was now entirely
composed. He dispatched him upstairs again upon a trumped-up errand
that must keep him absent for some little time, whilst himself he went
to get the things he needed.
He returned below with them, and when he had assisted his brother into
fresh garments with as little movement as possible so as not to disturb
his dressing of the wound or set it bleeding afresh, he took the
blood-stained doublet, vest, and shirt which he had ripped and flung
them, too, into the great fire.
When some moments later Nicholas entered the vast room he found the
brothers sitting composedly at table. Had he faced Lionel he would have
observed little amiss with him beyond the deep pallor of his face. But
he did not even do so much. Lionel sat with his back to the door and
the servant's advance into the room was checked by Sir Oliver with the
assurance that they did not require him. Nicholas withdrew again, and
the brothers were once more alone.
Lionel ate very sparingly. He thirsted and would have emptied the
measure of posset, but that Sir Oliver restrained him, and refused him
anything but water lest he should contract a fever. Such a sparing meal
as they made--for neither had much appetite--was made in silence. At
last Sir Oliver rose, and with slow, heavy steps, suggestive of his
humour, he crossed to the fire-place. He threw fresh logs on the blaze,
and took from the tall mantelshelf his pipe and a leaden jar of tobacco.
He filled the pipe pensively, then with the short iron tongs seized a
fragment of glowing wood and applied it to the herb.
He returned to the table, and standing over his brother, he broke at
last the silence that had now endured some time.
"What," he asked gruffly, "was the cause of your quarrel?"
Lionel started and shrank a little; between finger and thumb he kneaded
a fragment of bread, his eyes upon it. "I scarce know," he replied.
"Lal, that is not the truth."
"'Tis not the truth. I am not to be put off with such an answer.
Yourself you said that you had warned him not to cross your path. What
path was in your mind?"
Lionel leaned his elbows on the table and took his head in his hands.
Weak from loss of blood, overwrought mentally as well, in a state of
revulsion and reaction also from the pursuit which had been the cause of
to-night's tragic affair, he had not strength to withhold the confidence
his brother asked. On the contrary, it seemed to him that in making
such a confidence, he would find a haven and refuge in Sir Oliver.
"'Twas that wanton at Malpas was the cause of all," he complained. And
Sir Oliver's eye flashed at the words. "I deemed her quite other; I was
a fool, a fool! I"--he choked, and a sob shook him--"I thought she
loved me. I would have married her, I would so, by God."
Sir Oliver swore softly under his breath.
"I believed her pure and good, and...." He checked. "After all, who am I
to say even now that she was not? 'Twas no fault of hers. 'Twas he,
that foul dog Godolphin, who perverted her. Until he came all was well
between us. And then...."
"I see," said Sir Oliver quietly. "I think you have something for which
to thank him, if he revealed to you the truth of that strumpet's nature.
I would have warned thee, lad. But...Perhaps I have been weak in that."
"It was not so; it was not she...."
"I say it was, and if I say so I am to be believed, Lionel. I'd smirch
no woman's reputation without just cause. Be very sure of that."
Lionel stared up at him. "O God!" he cried presently, "I know not what
to believe. I am a shuttle-cock flung this way and that way."
"Believe me," said Sir Oliver grimly. "And set all doubts to rest."
Then he smiled. "So that was the virtuous Master Peter's secret
pastime, eh? The hypocrisy of man! There is no plumbing the endless
depths of it!"
He laughed outright, remembering all the things that Master Peter had
said of Ralph Tressilian--delivering himself as though he were some
chaste and self-denying anchorite. Then on that laugh he caught
his breath quite suddenly. "Would she know?" he asked fearfully.
"Would that harlot know, would she suspect that 'twas your hand did
"Aye--would she," replied the other. "I told her to-night, when she
flouted me and spoke of him, that I went straight to find him and pay
the score between us. I was on my way to Godolphin Court when I came
upon him in the park."
"Then you lied to me again, Lionel. For you said 'twas he attacked
"And so he did." Lionel countered instantly. "He never gave me time to
speak, but flung down from his horse and came at me snarling like a
cross-grained mongrel. Oh, he was as ready for the fight as I--as
"But the woman at Malpas knows," said Sir Oliver gloomily. "And if she
"She'll not," cried Lionel. "She dare not for her reputation's sake."
"Indeed, I think you are right," agreed his brother with relief. "She
dare not for other reasons, when I come to think of it. Her reputation
is already such, and so well detested is she that were it known she had
been the cause, however indirect, of this, the countryside would satisfy
certain longings that it entertains concerning her. You are sure none
saw you either going or returning?"
Sir Oliver strode the length of the room and back, pulling at his pipe.
"All should be well, then, I think," said he at last. "You were best
abed. I'll carry you thither."
He took up his stripling brother in his powerful arms and bore him
upstairs as though he were a babe.
When he had seen him safely disposed for slumber, he returned below,
shut the door in the hall, drew up the great oaken chair to the fire,
and sat there far into the night smoking and thinking.
He had said to Lionel that all should be well. All should be well for
Lionel. But what of himself with the burden of this secret on his soul?
Were the victim another than Rosamund's brother the matter would have
plagued him but little. The fact that Godolphin was slain, it must be
confessed, was not in itself the source of his oppression. Godolphin
had more than deserved his end, and he would have come by it months ago
at Sir Oliver's own hand but for the fact that he was Rosamund's
brother, as we know. There was the rub, the bitter, cruel rub. Her own
brother had fallen by the hand of his. She loved her brother more than
any living being next to himself, just as he loved Lionel above any
other but herself. The pain that must be hers he knew; he experienced
some of it in anticipation, participating it because it was hers and
because all things that were hers he must account in some measure his
He rose up at last, cursing that wanton at Malpas who had come to fling
this fresh and terrible difficulty where already he had to face so many.
He stood leaning upon the overmantel, his foot upon one of the dogs of
the fender, and considered what to do. He must bear his burden in
silence, that was all. He must keep this secret even from Rosamund. It
split his heart to think that he must practise this deceit with her.
But naught else was possible short of relinquishing her, and that was
far beyond his strength.
The resolve adopted, he took up a taper and went off to bed.
It was old Nicholas who brought the news next morning to the brothers as
they were breaking their fast.
Lionel should have kept his bed that day, but dared not, lest the fact
should arouse suspicion. He had a little fever, the natural result both
of his wound and of his loss of blood; he was inclined to welcome rather
than deplore it, since it set a flush on cheeks that otherwise must have
looked too pale.
So leaning upon his brother's arm he came down to a breakfast of
herrings and small ale before the tardy sun of that December morning was
Nicholas burst in upon them with a white face and shaking limbs. He
gasped out his tale of the event in a voice of terror, and both brothers
affected to be shocked, dismayed and incredulous. But the worst part of
that old man's news, the true cause of his terrible agitation, was yet
to be announced.
"And they do zay," he cried with anger quivering through his fear, "they
do zay that it were you that killed he, Sir Oliver."
"I?" quoth Sir Oliver, staring, and suddenly like a flood there burst
upon his mind a hundred reasons overlooked until this moment, that
inevitably must urge the countryside to this conclusion, and to this
conclusion only. "Where heard you that foul lie?"
In the tumult of his mind he never heeded what answer was returned by
Nicholas. What could it matter where the fellow had heard the thing; by
now it would be the accusation on the lips of every man. There was one
course to take and he must take it instantly--as he had taken it once
before in like case. He must straight to Rosamund to forestall the tale
that others would carry to her. God send he did not come too late
He stayed for no more than to get his boots and hat, then to the stables
for a horse, and he was away over the short mile that divided Penarrow
from Godolphin Court, going by bridle and track meadow straight to his
goal. He met none until he fetched up in the courtyard at Godolphin
Court. Thence a babble of excited voices had reached him as he
aproached. But at sight of him there fell a general silence, ominous
and staring. A dozen men or more were assembled there, and their eyes
considered him first with amazement and curiosity, then with sullen
He leapt down from his saddle, and stood a moment waiting for one of the
three Godolphin grooms he had perceived in that assembly to take his
reins. Seeing that none stirred--
"How now?" he cried. "Does no one wait here? Hither, sirrah, and hold
The groom addressed hesitated a moment, then, under the stare of Sir
Oliver's hard, commanding eye, he shuffled sullenly forward to do as he
was bid. A murmur ran through the group. Sir Oliver flashed a glance
upon it, and every tongue trembled into silence.
In that silence he strode up the steps, and entered the rush-strewn
hall. As he vanished he heard the hubbub behind him break out anew,
fiercer than it had been before. But he nothing heeded it.
He found himself face to face with a servant, who shrank before him,
staring as those in the courtyard had stared. His heart sank. It was
plain that he came a little late already; that the tale had got there
ahead of him.
"Where is your mistress?" said he.
"I...I will tell her you are here, Sir Oliver," the man replied in a
voice that faltered; and he passed through a doorway on the right.
Sir Oliver stood a moment tapping his boots with his whip, his face
pale, a deep line between his brows. Then the man reappeared, closing
the door after him.
"Mistress Rosamund bids you depart, sir. She will not see you."
A moment Sir Oliver scanned the servant's face--or appeared to scan it,
for it is doubtful if he saw the fellow at all. Then for only answer he
strode forward towards the door from which the man had issued. The
servant set his back to it, his face resolute.
"Sir Oliver, my mistress will not see you."
"Out of my way!" he muttered in his angry, contemptuous fashion, and as
the man persistent in his duty stood his ground, Sir Oliver took him by
the breast of his jacket, heaved him aside and went in.
She was standing in mid-apartment, dressed by an odd irony all in bridal
white, that yet was not as white as was her face. Her eyes looked like
two black stains, solemn and haunting as they fastened up on this
intruder who would not be refused. Her lips parted, but she had no word
for him. She just stared in a horror that routed all his audacity and
checked the masterfulness of his advance. At last he spoke.
"I see that you have heard," said he, "the lie that runs the
countryside. That is evil enough. But I see that you have lent an ear
to it; and that is worse."
She continued to regard him with a cold look of loathing, this child
that but two days ago had lain against his heart gazing up at him in
trust and adoration.
"Rosamund!" he cried, and approached her by another step. "Rosamund! I
am here to tell you that it is a lie."
"You had best go," she said, and her voice had in it a quality that made
"Go?" he echoed stupidly. "You bid me go? You will not hear me?"
"I consented to hear you more than once; refused to hear others who knew
better than I, and was heedless of their warnings. There is no more to
be said between us. I pray God that they may take and hang you."
He was white to the lips, and for the first time in his life he knew
fear and felt his great limbs trembling under him.
"They may hang me and welcome since you believe this thing. They could
not hurt me more than you are doing, nor by hanging me could they
deprive me of aught I value, since your faith in me is a thing to be
blown upon by the first rumour of the countryside."
He saw the pale lips twist themselves into a dreadful smile. "There is
more than rumour, I think said she. "There is more than all your lies
will ever serve to cloak."
"My lies?" he cried. "Rosamund, I swear to you by my honour that I have
had no hand in the slaying of Peter. May God rot me where I stand if
this be not true!"
"It seems," said a harsh voice behind him, "that you fear God as little
as aught else."
He wheeled sharply to confront Sir John Killigrew, who had entered after
"So," he said slowly, and his eyes grew hard and bright as agates, "this
is your work." And he waved a hand towards Rosamund. It was plain to
what he alluded.
"My work?" quoth Sir John. He closed the door, and advanced into the
room. "Sir, it seems your audacity, your shamelessness, transcends all
"Have done with that," Sir Oliver interrupted him and smote his great
fist upon the table. He was suddenly swept by a gust of passion.
"Leave words to fools, Sir John, and criticisms to those that can
defend them better."
"Aye, you talk like a man of blood. You come hectoring it here in the
very house of the dead--in the very house upon which you have cast this
blight of sorrow and murder...."
"Have done, I say, or murder there will be!"
His voice was a roar, his mien terrific. And bold man though Sir John
was, he recoiled. Instantly Sir Oliver had conquered himself again. He
swung to Rosamund. "Ah, forgive me!" he pleaded. "I am mad--stark mad
with anguish at the thing imputed. I have not loved your brother, it is
true. But as I swore to you, so have I done. I have taken blows from
him, and smiled; but yesterday in a public place he affronted me, lashed
me across the face with his riding-whip, as I still bear the mark. The
man who says I were not justified in having killed him for it is a liar
and a hypocrite. Yet the thought of you, Rosamund, the thought that he
was your brother sufficed to quench the rage in which he left me. And
now that by some grim mischance he has met his death, my recompense for
all my patience, for all my thought for you is that I am charged with
slaying him, and that you believe this charge."
"She has no choice," rasped Killigrew.
"Sir John," he cried, "I pray you do not meddle with her choice. That
you believe it, marks you for a fool, and a fool's counsel is a rotten
staff to lean upon at any time. Why God o' mercy! assume that I desired
to take satisfaction for the affront he had put upon me; do you know so
little of men, and of me of all men, that you suppose I should go about
my vengeance in this hole-and-corner fashion to set a hangman's noose
about my neck. A fine vengeance that, as God lives! Was it so I dealt
with you, Sir John, when you permitted your tongue to wag too freely, as
you have yourself confessed? Heaven's light, man; take a proper view;
consider was this matter likely. I take it you are a more fearsome
antagonist than was ever poor Peter Godolphin, yet when I sought
satisfaction of you I sought it boldly and openly, as is my way. When
we measured swords in your park at Arwenack we did so before witnesses
in proper form, that the survivor might not be troubled with the
Justices. You know me well, and what manner of man I am with my